Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Elvis Has Left the Building

Okay, not exactly, but the remaining dove hatchling has left the nest, well and healthy and within the 11 to however many days the Sibley Guide to Birds said is normal.
      There are, however, now 16 quail eggs in the fern in the front entryway and no sign of either of the parents, also not unusual according to Sibley. Given the time that's elapsed since the last eggs were laid (nearly a week) and the parents' absence since then, I think it's safe to say they've abandoned the nest, either by choice or by mischance. Though you'd never know it by looking around the neighborhood, quail don't have a very high survival rate. I've written about that before, in a poem called "Borrowed Days," from which these stanzas are excerpted:

Here in the desert, in these borrowed days before the heat,
we plant and hope for a brief flowering.
Here our flowers are red, yellow, orange, the hot colors. 
Here birds nest and mate frantically.
Some of their young, got in these borrowed days,
may even survive the summer. 

It does not pay to watch too closely, to count the tiny quail,
to watch their numbers shrink as the heat grows.
It shrivels the heart and urges us to tears.
We cannot spare the water.

But the summer, hot as it is, provides beauty, as in the crops we grow during this time. The greens are gone now, except the chard, which is more resilient than it looks. We'll have to buy our lettuces - I pulled out the last plants the other day. The aphids of April arrived right on schedule to take over the kale, and the beets, parsnips, and rutabagas are crowding the refrigerator, soon to be joined by the last of the carrots.
     This morning, very early, before work, in one raised bed I planted Armenian cucumbers, which tolerate our temperatures, and two kinds of melons - Kazakh, which I've neither grown nor tasted, and the Spanish Piel de Sapo, which I grew successfully a few years ago. They're delicious, and apparently if you say "melon" in Spain, that's what people assume you mean. In the other I planted my two favorite winter squashes, the Italian Marina di Chioggia, big, blue-green, and warty, and the French Muscat de Provence, which looks like Cinderella's pumpkin (but should not be confused with the Rouge Vif d'Etampes pumpkin, which is brighter-colored on the outside and according to some sources less tasty, though I don't actually know about that, having never seen or tasted one). 

Tomorrow I'll plant grey zucchini, which are sold here in the markets as Mexican zucchini; I think they have more and better flavor than the regular dark green ones.
Then we'll plant tepary beans along the trellises in the west garden. I've written about those amazing beans before http://morning-glory-garden.blogspot.com/2009/11/gardens-yesterday-and-today.html. Even though many people flee northward at this time of year, I'm looking forward to it. I'll just have to make sure to get up early to do whatever needs doing outdoors in the cool of the morning!

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